A Federal High Court in Abuja has directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, as the Senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial district by issuing him a certificate of return.
The returning officer for Imo West senatorial zone, Innocent Ibeabuchi, announced Okorocha the winner of the February 23, 2019 election with 97,762 votes.
However, the INEC official disclosed that he announced the result under duress as he was detained by Okorocha's supporters at the collation centre.
This led INEC to withhold Okorocha's certificate of return as the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, insisted that the commission will not issue any to a candidate declared winner of an election under duress.
However, Okorocha filed a suit before the court in disagreement with INEC's decision and has been backed by the court in a ruling issued on Friday, June 7.
Justice Okon Abang said Okorocha, whose tenure as governor ended last month, is entitled to the certificate as he was declared winner of the election.
"Once the declaration is made under section 68(c) of the Electoral Act, INEC has become functus officio and INEC has no lawful authority to withhold the certificate of return for any reason whatsoever.
"Therefore the issue of duress is unknown to both the Electoral Act and the Constitution," the judge ruled.
The judge ordered INEC to publish and circulate Okorocha's name as the Senator-elect representing Orlu Imo West Senatorial District and issue him a certificate of return.
Lawmakers will be inaugurated into the National Assembly on Tuesday, June 11.